Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Dolphin Blogging:

Do Birds Suddenly Appear Edition

Horoscopically speak, I'm not allowed to lie about anything, even the smallest thing, so I'm breaking down and telling you a few stupid truths. To advance the plot, you understand.

Perhaps you've noticed I've been a bit circumspect lately, more so than one might expect over filmy deposits left by my shampoo and dull, lifeless hair. Thing is: two members of my extended family are undergoing cancer treatment, which worked out less fabulously last time than we might have liked. Plus, there's not a lot I can do besides call up one household and leave amusing messages, which I try to do now two or three times a week, and Heaven help me when someone answers the phone.

Sick Relative: Hello?
Tata: Did you know lips do not exfoliate and you must help them?
Sick Relative: Domenica, it's always nice to hear you speak in tongues.

In that house, a whole lot of things snapped into fast-forward after the diagnosis, like that one of my cousins planned a wedding in eight weeks to land taffeta-side down minutes before Thanksgiving. Because. Because why? Because. We are going to gussy up, overeat, throw rice and take pictures, got that? You should immediately buy a case of Orville Redenbacher. This has positively awesome comic potential.

On the other side of the family, Pete's sister Maggie was diagnosed out in Arizona with a cancer similar to the one that killed her mother. Maggie has been friends with my sister Daria since before either of them could say the words "I'm telling!" and my mother is a cancer survivor, so this is no laughing matter. Well, it wasn't until Maggie started chemo and Pete and I mailed her whole family a variety of silly hats from the toy store for when, as her toddler said, "We all lose our hair."

It was going pretty well until Maggie's last chemo appointment this week. She was sitting in the waiting room, talking to other patients. One said he'd been getting chemo for two years, and she heard a few other things that didn't make sense. Maggie's a doctor of pharmacy. She calculated a few calculations and realized she'd been given the wrong dosages, so had other patients and who knows how many people are dead now. But instead of collapsing into a heap like a mere mortal, Maggie called one of her other best friends, a Manhattan malpractice attorney.

Perhaps, wherever you are, you hear a distant whooooooooshing sound coming from Arizona, as doctors and facilities rush to cover their asses. I wish them well. There's no hope for them.

Speaking of hope - you knew there were animals here someplace - NOAA continues to hope the dolphins in the Navesink River will winter glamorously at the Jersey Shore.
NOAA’s Fisheries Service today announced a monitoring plan for 12 bottlenose dolphins in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers. The agency also announced that there will be no effort to force the dolphins out of the area at this time.

Monitoring by NOAA dolphin researchers over the past week revealed no indications of stress, illness, or feeding problems. They identified 12 individuals moving easily from the Navesink to the Shrewsbury in two groups.

“These animals are in typical habitat, food is present, and we have no reason to believe they are stressed,” said Teri Rowles, director of NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Program. “We’re not going to interfere in what appears to be a completely natural phenomenon, especially when doing so carries a high risk of harming healthy animals.”

NOAA consulted with a number of experts on the condition and behavior of these animals in this habitat and determined the conditions of the estuary are well within those tolerated by bottlenose dolphins.

There is also general agreement that efforts to move the animals from the area by luring, chasing, or catching them for relocation would be difficult, potentially dangerous for the animals and people, and not likely to succeed.

That sounds really rational, doesn't it? I read the article a few times and the most striking aspect of the language is the attempt throughout to shut down any avenue of discussion. If we were children talking about toys, that might make sense, but we're not. Dolphins have frozen in the Navesink before, and if you're in New Jersey, I don't have to tell you it's been freaking cold for the past few weeks. If you're not in New Jersey, it's been freaking cold for the past few weeks. It's just a matter of time now until the rivers clog with ice.

There's a website with beee-yootiful photographs of the dolphins, and helpful contact information.
If are not satisfied with the NOAA decision, share your thoughts via a respectful email or phone call. They seem very willing to discuss the matter with anyone who asks.

David.Gouveia: or (978) 281-9505
Teri Frady: or (508) 495-2239

Contact Governor Corzine with a respectful email and share your thoughts:

1. Just click here.

2. Choose “Natural Resources” from the drop down menu & click “continue”

3. On the next page choose “Fish, Game & Wildlife” from the drop down menu and fill out the form.

You can also contact Governor Corzine by writing to:

The Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 001
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0001
PH: (609) 777-2500

It can't hurt to talk about it. Please give them a call.

Some speculate that construction on that big bridge at Highlands keeps the pod from migrating out to sea. Pete and I saw that site a few weeks back, and even on a Sunday it was loud and confusing. I hated seeing that, since twenty-five years ago, the foot of that bridge, then crumbling and untraveled, was where I went for peace and quiet. But that wasn't so important, it was just another strange dead end for me on the day Pete and I scattered the one-sixth of Dad's ashes in my possession into the thundering waves at Point Pleasant. Since Dad and I said everything to each other when he was still alive and he smirks in my dreams now and then wearing his usual European underwear, there wasn't much to say as the powder that used to be Dad fell into the churning spray and foam and flew on the wind. I had chosen Point Pleasant because his grandfather had had a giant house on the ocean, where many of Dad's favorite childhood memories were set, where I know currents cross the Atlantic and warm the northern coasts. So there was only one thing to say that was new at all.

Tata: 'Bye, Dad. Be free. Hey! Now you can summer in Europe!

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 30, 2008

But You Can't Stop Thinking About Her

Okay. Okay. Okay: we're sitting in the car on the way home and I burst out laughing.

Tata: Omigod, I forgot to tell you something.
Pete: You like my rugged good looks?
Tata: Pffft! Like I shut up about that. Remember I took a shower for about a year before we went out?
Pete: I remember.
Tata: And remember that I've been glum about my hair for weeks?
Pete: How could I forget?
Tata: And I've been putting my hair up in a ponytail to avoid dealing with it?
Pete: I'm still snickering. I mean, sure.
Tata: And since I got sick I've been complaining I could smell fever on my scalp?
Pete: Hoo boy, yes.
Tata: And you know how we bulk shop at Costco and use giant bottles of smelly goo?
Pete: Indeed I do!
Tata: Well, I was in the shower before and I washed my hair, and I was really frustrated because I couldn't get the shampoo to lather, which I thought was because my scalp had suddenly become oily or something. So I washed my hair a second time and still no lather and I was just like, "What?" So finally I turned the bottle around and if you can believe it, I have been washing my hair for - like - six weeks with conditioner.

And then, when I expected him to drive off the road in stupefaction at my antics, Pete said the most extraordinary thing.

Pete: I know.


Tata: What?
Pete: I was looking through the bottles on the shelves in the bathtub. There's this stuff, that stuff, some other stuff and I said, "What's she washing with?"
Tata: And you didn't say anything?
Pete: Nooooooo. You're mysterious.
Tata: I'm not mysterious, I'm - like - stupid.

Don't panic! I've washed my long, luxurious blond hair, glazed it, conditioned it and come clean about this episode with every last one of my female co-workers, and at the end of the story, when they're gasping at my ability to move about in society without a keeper, I can see they are mentally reviewing the products in their bathrooms.

Speaking of review, let's review this new picture of Panky with pumpkins.

Man, he's cute.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

So You Can See What's Going On

Let's time travel a little bit. The easiest way is with wacky verb tenses. Watch!

On the Daily Show Monday night, Campbell Brown, bless her heart, said she wants to break free of the usual political bullshit, which is heartwarming. My icy heart almost warmed and everything! Then Ms. Brown repeats the modern political version of an old wives' tale: for your news sources, you can choose Fox on the Right and MSNBC on the rabid left; Bill O'Reilly or Trotskiite Keith Olbermann. The thing is: that actually is bullshit. She might believe it, too, which makes it worse. Let's talk about the political compass.

That's me, there, waving to you from the southwest of freaking GANDHI. I am unapologetic in my belief in acting for the common good and leaving people alone to make the best or worst decisions about their own lives and medical care. I am unconcerned about where people were born, what language they speak, what religion they practice or with whom they knock boots; skin color and economics need not prevent us from attending the same tea party. I have a responsibility to care for people less fortunate than myself and to do good works in this lifetime without the kibbitzing of some bearded sky god. Adequate food, housing and medical care for all people are not too much to ask. Political prisoners of the war on drugs should go free. I try to think peaceful thoughts when I want to bash someone with a tire iron. My government does not own but retains stewardship of its public lands, and I want it to take that responsibility seriously while I figure out how to afford shiny-shiny solar panels. Damn it, I want all children to have shoes and safe places to sleep. And books. And uniformly good educations. That's the lower lefthand spot from which I speak. You can find where your beliefs sit on the Political Compass Test.

You'll notice the test doesn't simply divide opinions into Left and Right. It also tests for libertarian or authoritarian impulses. I am shamelessly anti-authoritarian about individuals, which is the same reason I wish for rigorous corporate regulation the world over. It's pretty simple: one person with a bad idea can do society some minor damage, but an multinational conglomerate with a bad idea can destroy the planet.

So, in practice, I am a happy lowercase-L leftist. Socialism sounds fine to me, but I'm not afraid of a few words, either. I've got a dictionary! Have at it! But here's the thing: the closest things we've seen to capital-L Leftists in American public life in the last three decades have been Dennis Kucinich and Reverend Al Sharpton, but neither one of them is a Leftist. They aren't. They are slightly to the left of center, which you might have noticed if American political rhetoric hadn't shifted so far to the Right that housing advocates are reviled as rabid Communists. Olbermann is not of the Left or the left. Olbermann is a centrist.

I could explain to you how silly that is but it would require hand puppets and Spam.

But enough about me, what do you think of reporters who don't know the difference between talking points and facts? What do you think of people who claim to offer balance when they specifically mean they do not? What do you think of public discourse when one candidate in an American presidential election is described by his opponent through racial code words and the press takes up the vocabulary without skipping a beat?

Is winning so important we must reduce half of America to ashes?

As for Campbell Brown, I keep wondering if she simply doesn't understand what she's saying or worse: maybe she does?


Your Diamond Desert

Seven days to the election.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 27, 2008

From the Highest Tower

This morning, I walked to work. It was tough going, what with the fuzzy lungs and me allergic to cashmere. While I was dramatically infirm, I noticed a new recruitment ad for the military that made me delicately irate. In it, an older man of color asks an olive-skinned woman if her son is still talking about joining the military. She says the young man talks about nothing but. The older man asks if she is still opposed to her son joining. She says her son can be very persuasive, and her mind is opening to the idea. The older man says he's impressed with both of them.

Congratulations to the US military, which has finally managed to convey what some of us have known all along: our sons are born to be cannonfodder in self-perpetuating imperialist wars. It is only our stubborn belief that children matter individually preventing the military from snapping them up like dropped pennies and turning them into gravestones or worse. And if mothers and fathers would stop being so damned picky about that whole PSTD-head injury-full-thickness burns-lost limbs-depression and suicide thing, it would just be so much easier to conduct these endless, pointless wars that are such a boon to the military-industrial complex. So this morning, when I walked around a ROTC flag raising ceremony because the sidewalk was blocked by shivering crew-cut teenagers, I was in a bit of a snit. But why talk about architecture when we can dance about war?


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Never Have That Recipe Again

Last night, Pete's tenant had a houseful of children who are growing up bathed in the cool light of satellite television, which went out during a storm. I borrowed the little girl, leaving my car keys as collateral, and pulled a couple of Dad's cookbooks down from the shelves. We studied recipes. We studied lists of ingredients. We gazed at the clock. A whole lot of breakfast recipes require rising time, and little girls, bored out of their sweaty little skulls, go to bed early. I slammed shut The Breakfast Book.

Tata: Do you trust me?
Samantha: Yes!
Tata: We're going to bake french toast tomorrow morning.
Sammy: We what?

Mam'selle professes a desire to professionally prepare desserts. To this end, I have seen her - from a safe distance - mash up marshmallow, rice crispie thingies and Nutella, spoon it onto a plate, stab the chunks with toothpicks and toss the whole mess into the freezer. To my abiding regret, I ate one of these morsels. I may be diabetic now or developing a Hallmark Card fixation, I don't know. I had a moment where I thought I might - Jesus Christ! - says something nice, but it passed. Whew! Anyway, we sliced challah rolls in half and slathered the insides with homemade apple butter. Then we mixed up spicy custard batter with lots of cinnamon, cloves and fresh ground nutmeg. On a lark, we added sugar-free raspberry syrup, turning the custard Barbie pink. Sammy was delighted as we poured it over the rolls and put them into the fridge to soak overnight.

Late this morning, Pete and I took a long walk through the park, where we saw lots of adorable little duckies doing adorable duckie things. The walk was difficult because we've both been sick so long that the slightest exertion leaves us breathless, so my incessant swearing was practically aerobic exercise. But look at these duckies, frolicking and playing, splashing and diving, quacking for all they're worth: they seemed very, very happy and I slowly cooled to a slightly less homicidal state. You will be happy to hear I didn't beat any children even a little.

As a general point, it is a goddamn shame that divorced parents, knowledgeable about food, nutrition and healthy practices, permit their children to gobble shitty Booberry and Count Chocula by the troughful, sculpt the Chrysler Building out of otherwise untouched custardy french toast and homemade stewed apples, then offer those surly children fucking Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in giant soupbowls, because real food is a little too goddamn real.

On the other hand, you know, duckies!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tomorrow Goodbye That Day May Be Soon

She calls me. It's urgent. She doesn't say hello.

Mary: Bread pudding?
Tata: Love it.
Mary: Stale bread?
Tata: The stalest. Thrifty. Good.
Mary: It's not too stale?
Tata: The staler the better. Love custard?
Mary: Love it.
Tata: Add raisins, walnuts, fruit.
Mary: Not sure. Don't like?
Tata: Use extra custard. All good. One more thing -
Mary: Ready!
Tata: Don't let anyone talk you into using doughnuts. That shit'll kill you.
Mary: Over and out!

I have every confidence that Mary, who tonight baked her first loaf of bread with her divine seven-year-old, baked a lovely, custardy, delicious bread pudding.

Next week: hard sauce.


Friday, October 24, 2008

See Her Much Since She Started To Ride

In our vast old age, cable television or satellite or some pulse-pounding form of high-def radio will become increasingly important as we spend more time nursing ourselves back to health, because tonics and balms aside, few things make a geezer jump up and twitch like taking a gander at Darrin's office in McMann & Tate. Think back! You've seen it a thousand times, and if you get colds you'll need to see it a thousand more: desks are covered with ashtrays, cigarette butts and half-empty bottles of scotch. Obviously, we're healthier than we know, and scotch prevents absenteeism. Obviously. The bug Pete and I and half the city have been trading, mixing and matching for over a month has settled into my lungs and makes breathing an unpleasant adventure.

If only I hadn't quit smoking.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Nice Day To Start Again

This is my grandmother Edith, my father's mother, my refuge, anchor in life I still miss daily seventeen years after her death. And an, um, friend. Edith called this picture "Two Mules." She was six when it was taken and always hated it. You can see - or at least I can - that she never really had a child's face, though it is charming to see her nose before she broke it playing football with her brothers. As the middle of seven children and the oldest girl in an immigrant Sicilian family, she always carried more responsibility than she should have had to bear.

I like the detail of the shoes, and that this picture was taken, if I recall correctly, in New Brunswick, where no one ever sees a mule just in passing anymore, though if one did, one would not expect this mule's jaunty joie de vivre.

We are a long way from a post-racial society, at least in part because the issue of race makes us stupid. We say stupid things. We act against our best interests because we stupidly can't see what they are. I can't claim to be smarter than the next idiot but I can tell you this: anything that creates or prolongs suffering adds to the Stupid, and whatever works for the Common Good speaks for itself. Perhaps that is why I love this picture, below, so much. It's nothing, it's just a young man and his grandparents. They could be anyone and I would still feel the same way about it.

Very few of us are simply, genetically, one thing. There are remote places where people have not intermingled much with the world, but you should expect to find few teeth and supernumerary digits. Further, history is full of raping, pillaging, slavery and diaspora, so no matter how you slice it, a picture of your family tree will inevitably come up short a few branches - or maybe you're missing from someone else's.

I take the election season's racial dogwhistling very seriously. It's not hard to predict the outcome. When the Towers came down and Americans waved flags, I said, "Brown people are now going to die, as they do every time jingoism is the zeitgeist." And now I say we are about to revisit that part of our comparatively recent history where white people act on their basest, most vile impulses and truly believe they are acting in the interest of White Pride or White Heritage or ...whatever. But Americans really ought to know in 2008 that there is not now nor was there ever any such thing.

There is, however, you and your grandchildren. You and your grandparents. You and your cousins. You and your people, who may not be who you think they are. You and your own people are our people, and now is the time to ask yourself who they might be, because we cannot truly, absolutely know. You can't know.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Don't Bother Chasing Mice Around

This picture, found on Cute Overload haunts me. I cannot get over the terrible fear that I may be nothing more than cat staff to tiny, adorable pussycats who will one day climb me to reach the can opener. The current cold snap has done nothing to alleviate these fears, since Pete and I now feed two giant outdoor pussycats we suspect might be mountain lions - but, you know, with really good manners. They haven't looked at us and licked their chops even once, so we put out a bowl of kibble for breakfast and another for dinner. They reward us by intimidating the yard squirrels.

We're considering bringing in houseplants we put outside for the summer. Snake plants are pretty sturdy but these have become really large, vivacious and refer to us by name. Sort of. I distinctly heard one burble, "Hepzibah, dahling, bring Mama a drink," though the plant might've been talking to Topaz or Drusy. That's probably an in-joke between them.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

And That Old Man That's Over the Hill

Few songs have ever been so ripe for a timely cover.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

And Meanwhile Back

Pennies are humble and beautiful. People are careless with coins, but I adore them. It's one of the quirks I've observed in men: they either collect coins or despise them - sometimes both at the same time. I can't explain that. The Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, where gleaming, museum piece cars trade for hundreds of thousands, is on TV in the living room, though my first car was a 1979 Pinto Wagon that by 1985 was still cheap enough to run that I could always get home from the Amoco station on just the change under the floor mats. And when you limp into the Turnpike Toll Plaza in a bland blue Pinto, they're not surprised when you pay in pennies.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Dry Dive From A Hotel Room

When someone shows you his true colors, you should believe him.

Yes, "health" is such a nebulous term. It could mean practically anything, like "misogynist" or "complete sellout." In fact, why don't we take the dictionary, separate the words from their meanings - since we're not using those anymore - and shift everything a nonsensical two or three over. Then we can all pretend to be shocked! and surprised! - whatever the new versions turn out to be - when women's bodies turn up dead - oddly, still meaningful - on hotel floors. Just the way they did in the bad old days.

Won't that be "funny"?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Like A Red Rubber Ball

In an exciting turn of events, I woke up Sunday without a voice where I could swear I've had one all this time. And of course Monday I got that flu shot we're all desperate to talk about, but beyond that, I immediately drove home and keeled over. Yet today, I bounce back, like one of those inflatable Bozo the Clown things we all punched as angry children. So far, I have to say, these metaphors could go better.

Anyhoo, blogging and hijinx will recommence in three, two, one, and -

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Goldfish Shoals Nibbling At My Toes

Topaz and Drusy cannot believe their sensitive ears!

Thursday, Pete went to the doctor and discovered that though he works in a toy store with children his insurance does not cover a flu shot. When I got home, he told me his doctor said it would be cheaper if he went to Costco. I stared at him like he was speaking Urdu, certain I'd misheard. Costco? What? On Thursdays, Pete and I work evening hours at the family stores, so figuring out what was going on took on a certain urgency. I had 90 minutes.

I called Costco and asked about flu shots. The woman who answered said there was a line by the pharmacy, it moved quickly, and though there were no guarantees we should be able to get a shot within half an hour. Pete and I looked at each other, gathered everything we'd need for work and jumped into the car, despite the feeling that we were driving into Bizarro Land.

At Costco, we marched with great purpose to the pharmacy and ran down almost zero little old ladies. I mean, they had it coming. Anyway, at the pharmacy, I didn't see anything that made sense to me, so I made eye contact with a person waiting in line and said, "Are you waiting for a flu shot?" She pointed behind her to the intersection of dog food and fabric softener. Pete and I turned the corner and found three tables, six workers, buckets of needles and the deadest of dead-end Costco customers in a blessedly brief line. A blue-haired lady at a table parked in front of bales of kibble squawked, "It's $20 unless you have Aetna! Do you have Aetna?" over and over.

Pete does not have Aetna, but he did have $10. I rummaged through my book bag until I found ten softly rumpled singles. Pete took a clipboard and filled out a form that asked little more about him than where he lived or if he'd ever had a fatal allergic reaction to drugs. Reading over his shoulder, I frowned. He sat down and got a shot. The blue-haired lady who stuck him made him promise he'd walk around the giant warehouse for 15 minutes, so if he had one of those fatal allergic reactions, we could all learn our lesson.

I now know more about bacon-wrapped scallops than I'd like to admit. Pete did not keel over, so we went to work and today, Pete has that touch of flu one gets after a flu shot. It's disappointing, but he doesn't fall asleep long enough for me to draw pictures on him with Magic Markers. The exciting thing is that I'm getting mine next week, lather, rinse, repeat. I'm hiding the Magic Markers.

It makes no sense to me that the bulk merchandise warehouse sells flu shots but doctors' offices can't administer innoculations because insurance companies decide who gets one by criteria that have little to do with the patients' needs. My doctor laughed at me when I said I never imagined I'd need a flu shot. The Stop & Shop three blocks from my house is holding clinics. What's wrong with this picture?

I can only guess what's going on but I don't like it, so here's a present. It's one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite shows Red Dwarf. The episode is called Holoship. The confusion feels ...familiar.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Before You Go Go Edition

By the time I got home, Pete had already eaten lunch, so I tossed a few vegetables on little corn tortillas and plunked myself down at the dining room table. Pete sat down next to me, holding a catalog.

Topaz curled up on this old chair and dreamed of dancing mousies. Drusy, wishing to play with dancing mousies, curled up next to Topaz. Drusy, closest to you, waits for Pete to knock it off with the flashy flashy, though she adores him with the purest love and would like to nibble his toes.

Tata: Are you going to read to me? Like a bedtime story?
Pete: This is a story of composting toilets.
Tata: Give me your shoe. I have to yak now.
Pete: Composting toilets use very little water, require no plumbing, and little space. A composting toilet would be perfect in that pantry we're making into a bathroom. Here, look at this diagram.
Tata: Seriously, I am going to ralph. Wait. What is that?
Pete: An explanation of the composting.
Tata: That, my friend, is an indoor outhouse.
Pete: No. Look, an outhouse is an open hole into which you throw lime. This is a closed system -
Tata: That will stink up my kitchen over my dead body.
Pete: No stink, see? Fresh air! That's a picture of fresh air!
Tata: And what happens to the poop? Doesn't someone eventually have to -
Pete: Remove the compost? Yep.
Tata: Forget the shoe. I'm going to throw up down the inside of your shirt. Where's my phone..?

Gorgeous Drusy and lovely, lovely Topaz cuddled up on afghans Pete's mom crocheted more than twenty years ago. The pussycats like the afghans because Pete naps on this chair, so it smells like his butt. Pete's explanation involves less farting, but I have yet to hear it. It's a secret between him and the cats. I might feel betrayed if I weren't so glad to be left out.

Tata: I have two words for you, mother of three small children: composting toilet.

I hand the phone to Pete. Daria's still gagging. The volume's up so I hear every gasp.

Pete: How are you today? Going to watch football? What're you making?
Daria: Hot wings, celery, blue cheese dressing.
Pete: Ta's eating lunch and we're talking about composting toilets. I just got a catalog.
Daria: (Hacking, wheezing, stuck hairball)
Pete: There are several different models.
Daria: (Hacking, wheezing, hairball now in motion)
Pete: They're compact, odorless and produce excellent compost.
Daria: (Hacking, wheezing, hairball threatening to make a gooey cameo appearance)
Tata: Tell her about the diagrams!
Pete: The catalog includes various diagrams of the composting process...
Daria: THAT'S HORRIBLE! That is HORRIBLE. Don't ever speak to me again!
Tata: She is going to mail you a bag of puke, you know.
Pete: I'll call you tomorrow.
Daria: Bye!
Tata: I can't eat this.
Pete: I'm going to send her the catalog.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Inside So No One Can Hear

Hush, hush. Out there, words fly and bite and melt where they land like so many snowflakes flung at us by the winds on an icy night, but we have been here before, and we know it can end well, even if the quiet is only for a moment.

The Tomten saves the chickens from Reynard the fox and offers his own porridge to feed the hungry fox so that all ends well for the animals on this winter night.

What matters is whether we can do some simple good when we fear for ourselves and all around us seems very frightening indeed. The answer, my darlings, is yes.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I Need A Moment To Deliberate

I'm thinking of making videos in which I speak slowly, calmly and say fuck a lot. I feel this will add spice to the public discourse. In the meantime, it's a relief to find people like RH Reality Check speaking rationally and factually on the very serious topic of reporductive health.

RH Reality Check: Framing Reproductive Rights from RH Reality Check on Vimeo.

Of course, he's acting. But it irritates me beyond description to hear men discuss their opposition to abortion. I simply don't care why dudes think women should be baby factories, and that includes every dude, no matter who makes his ruby slippers.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

To Keep On Keeping On

dday reports:
Yesterday, at two major rallies for the Republican candidates, audience members yelled out that Obama is a terrorist and that he should be killed (or maybe that Bill Ayers should be killed, hard to know from the context, but when you're talking about someone approving of murder in the presence of a Republican candidate, it's a distinction without a difference). Today, an audience member screamed "Treason!"

The right has made a cottage industry of whipping up their side into a frenzy, demonizing liberals, blaming them for every ill of society and ramping up that rhetoric louder and louder until it essentially has no distinction from eliminationism. And as much as the conservative noise machine gets all wounded and indignant when you say this, such rhetoric does play itself out into acts of violence.

Indeed, John McCain has actively shielded domestic terrorists from prosecution through his votes in the 1990s. These are the characters, the Randall Terrys, the Chad Castagnas, that are never subjects of ads or whisper campaigns.

Republicans, in the words of the immortal cinematic antihero Marcus Brody:

You're meddling with powers you cannot possibly comprehend.

For the complete, terrifying rundown of rightwing hate groups operating in the US, the authority is Dave Neiwert, and the last word is Orcinus. If I were a registered Republican voter, I would give very serious consideration to with whom these candidates make common cause.


Monday, October 06, 2008

You More Than Anything

Yesterday, Jim Cramer appeared on The Today Show, a humbled and beaten man. His appearance was no less striking for what he said, but it's hard to have sympathy for the man who predicted this would happen, repeatedly called for GM to break the UAW and continues to kowtow to unfettered capitalism.

Last night, within only a few hours of his appearance on The Today Show, Cramer turned up on The Colbert Report, where he refused to blame the current administration for the unfolding economic disaster but says Republicans had a lot to do with it. Don't worry, he finds plenty of blame to lay at the feet of Bill Clinton. I would have been disappointed if he hadn't. This bit of fancy footwork is unbelievable. If his career as a guy screaming about Wall Street on TV is over, I'm sure he'll do very well on Dancing With the Stars.

This morning, poor Jim Cramer again appeared on The Today Show, defending his warning to Americans that they should remove anything they'll need for the next five years from the stock market. Oddly enough, Americans did not want to see the defeated Mr. Cramer admit defeat, and they attacked him for - well, you'll see. It is the most pointed example to date of the administration's successful campaign to numb Americans to fear. Congratulations, Republicans. Congratulations, runaway capitalists. Your oracle of venality gibbers on. This disaster is all yours, and none of it was an accident. Fortunately for you, when told to take cover, people who've been conditioned to believe you will take care of them still believe it, and they will stand there believing it as the sky falls.

As for Mr. Cramer -

It is impossible to pity him. He will be fine, once the humiliation of being right, a moral failure and unable to see what he could have done differently wears off. It is plain that he will not suffer the loss of his home - or much else, probably. He won't see what he contributed to the vast harm bearing down on billions of people. His blindness protects him. I wouldn't want to be him if it fails.


Paint the Sky Upon the Ceiling

Bob made a good point in comments: the composter wasn't cheap. Let's not laugh that off. As people of modest means and vivid imaginations, we wouldn't have had the cash except for two little things. One: moving afforded us a little found money because we saved like wild animals. Two: when I spend more than $100 at a time, I feel faint. Pete and I talked over what the property's needs might be, and I shopped carefully. Very carefully. More carefully than that. The result: a handful of really good prices on the method and model I wanted more than shiny shiny jewels, and we bought the one with the best shipping. It's an investment in making the crappy pulverized shale into better soil, and putting our money where our mouths are, ecologically. That is an image you should immediately scrub from your brain pan.

The house is old and has other needs, too. For instance, Pete's climbing into a wall today to stuff insulation into a crevice I wouldn't touch without a hazmat suit and an Iditarod dog, but that's me. And speaking of me, I can't figure out how to carpet stairs without a powerpoint presentation.

Tata: This is the fourth store we've been to and we can't seem to find square throw rugs. Where are they?
Department Manager: That section over there has throw rugs.
Tata: That's true, but I want a square rug. Do you have those?
Department Manager: Yes.
Tata: Where are they?
Department Manager: Over there with the carpeting.
Tata: No. I don't want carpeting. I have a landing on a staircase. It's about 36"x36" and I want to put a little throw rug on it.
Department Manager: You can buy those online.
Tata: I'm in your store right now. I'd like to buy it, take it home and put it on my floor today, preferably so I can jump up and down on it and make little noise. Also: my cats should enjoy the fluffy warmth and shed all over it.
Department Manager: What you need to do is go to a carpet specialty store where they do binding and you can buy a custom carpet and they'll do the binding and then you can have the carpet but we don't have that here and I can't help you.

If I turn and look at Pete, he will tell the Department Manager that she should go shag herself, not to mention Berber and Scotchguard, and I just can't picture myself getting the bum's rush at Lowe's before the cocktail hour.

Tata: Thank you. Pete, dahhhhlink, we need friction tape, possibly all of it.
Pete: She didn't hear a word you said.
Tata: Well, I used several at the same time. So: no. But let's not dwell, when I have a Buy One, Get One Free coupon for Febreze! During the season when everyone stays home and farts, our house will smell delightful and our cats will be perplexed...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

To Parade Your Snazz

Creamy, chewy Christ on a cracker! Grab a Kleenex and clutching pearls, Poor Impulsives!

Heavens to goddamn Mergatroid, my girlfriend's a half-eaten cheeseburger! My boyfriend's been plated and sucked clean of sour cream! Who knows who ate 'em first! Whatever will I dooooooooo?

Kids, Auntie Ta's never steered you wrong. No, the sled's not at all going to rocket down the hill, across the frozen yard and voooosh! into space, and you won't even a little slam into the street and the snowbank on the other side. So hop on.

Let's be completely honest. Your partner in chem lab makes your insides titrate, and it's a different world now than in the exotic antiquity when your parents and I smoked pot with our gym teacher. They'll deny it, since old age and sloth are a whole lot easier to live with than the memory of how we used to get tanked and drive the farm hills with the lights off, because the idea that you might scares all dainty shit out of them. And with good reason. We were young and stupid, but you are on camera almost every minute of your day. Are you under arrest yet?

Yep, your parents fight off night terrors imagining what theories you're testing with that lab partner. They've become the kind of spineless ninnies they once despised, but the change is not irreversible. You can be brave for them. "But, Auntie Ta," you say, "my parents want me to save myself for marriage. Stop laughing!"

Kids, please don't make me tell you about how your parents learned special macrame knots at scout camp or about those parties in the prop room that involved a can of Spam and tap shoes. You're going to date - preferably outside of your high school - and dating means coming into physical contact with another human being, on whom you will practice the little tricks that will make your adult sex life happy and well-adjusted. Cover up, pets! Just - don't tell your parents, don't get any diseases and don't make any babies. They're less hilarious than in the movies, and they'd remind your parents of the prom. Which reminds me: how're your big brothers and sisters, anyhow?

Look, chances are super-good you'll get nekkid and do the happy cha cha cha, then you'll break up and feel heartbroken, and after that you'll get nekkid and do the happy cha cha cha with someone else. You might not even be all that heartbroken, but anyway: the point is that worrying about where your Sweet Baboo has ba-been is a ba-big waste of time. Plus, what you've been safely up to is your own mmm-mmm-mmm biz.

Don your gloves and mittens, kids. You don't have to lose your cool or your nerve when you get rid of that nonsense no one needs. So when your parents experiment with this crazy abstinence and shame thing, don't forget it's not too late for you to raise them right.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: the Low Spark Edition

Some folks want diamonds. Some want money, power or sex with rubbery girls resembling Britney Spears. But I am not like all the others. In my heart of hearts, I wanted a composter. Yesterday, it arrived.

The Sun-Mar 200, reseplendant in our dining room, and about the size of an Oscar the Grouch trash can. From the manual - don't worry, I didn't read it, no one in my family can read a manual, but if I had, it would've said:

The Sun-Mar 200 is a continuous composter with a 6 bushel (50 gallon) capacity. It's excellent for composting kitchen scraps and garden trimmings.

The AutoFlow® system allows material to continuously "flow" or move through a special double-drum setup. Heavier material settles to the bottom. Lighter, decomposed material finds its way to the top and eventually enters the inner drum.

Using the flow system, finished composed is "forced" out when you open the port and rotate. Dispensing compost is simple!

These devices are so popular it's fairly standard to order one and have to call up the vendor and tell them you paid for it, could they actually ship it, please? They wanted a three-week window, but no way! Mama's gotta compost! By the way, after all this fuss, the FedEx delivery guy said, "That's a composter? And you had to sign for it?" Because it's not any composter. It's my composter, and I wanted it bad. But don't worry, you. Though I love the composter, it's not serious between us. How could it be, when I am loved by beautiful cats?

I'm the torso in the middle. Pete jumped up to take this picture when Drusy, right, sat down on the blanket and Topaz, left, settled next to me. Topaz loves us with a gooey, starstruck teenybopper love that seldom includes getting close enough for autographs, so her lying down between Pete and me was quite a surprise. Drusy, meanwhile, is lying on a blanket pinched between my toes, which sounds like a strain but isn't because Drusy practically levitates. Then the kittenpile watched TV in the dark.

Topaz and Drusy do not like the composter. They want me to be happy at home.

I am happy at home.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Slow Parade Of Fears

I'm not 100% certain where I learned this - I think it came from Martin Cruz Smith's novel Gorky Park, but it might have come from another novel I read in my early twenties. See: everyone seeks himself in what he or she sees. Artists endlessly reproduce themselves in their work, which people kind of know. The Mona Lisa might have been DaVinci's self-portrait, as any sophomore art history major knows. So in Gorky Park, forensic reconstruction of a skull is undertaken by a dwarf who says to the protagonist, "Trust the freak's eye." We don't have to go that far to examine an image. For instance, I missed my soaps for a few days because I was buffeted by real life so I checked in for episode recaps. There, I found this image. What the hell?

At first glance, the residents of Llanview, PA have little in common aside from their penchant for drama. Diversity is the key word in town: Cowboys and cops, the wealthy and working class, lovers and enemies mix amidst a collection of different races, religions and families. Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent these disparate individuals all share the desire to triumph in the one life we have to live.

Really? Why is the banner image six white people with blond hair and - as far as I can tell - blue eyes?

Trust this freak: you now know who the graphic artist is.